Places to Be: What’s Hot in Athens Now

Check out these exciting places to be, new arrivals, shows, hot trends, and foods to try this winter in Athens.


Replicas to go

For decades, there were a number of flower shops along the street outside Parliament. These shops, which supplied many of the wreaths placed on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in adjacent Syntagma Square, quickly won the hearts of Athenians and became landmarks in their own right, until the economic crisis led to the closures of most of them.

Recently, however, Athens has welcomed a new series of shops in that same space, now completely refurbished, including a florist’s, a charitable organization, and a store selling museum-quality reproductions of important archaeological objects, including copies of the 4th-century BC heads of Nike and Hygeia, unearthed at Epidaurus, and of a miniature horse with wheels, a toy dating to 900 BC discovered at Kerameikos. Drop by and check out the entire collection of wonderful souvenirs, items from the distant past that have fascinating stories of their own to tell. Nena Dimitriou

Info

Open daily 10:00-18:00

Invisible Sights

“The park remains in my memory like no other park I have known,” wrote American writer Henry Miller, remembering his visit to the National Gardens in Athens. This verdant oasis was the most significant project undertaken by Queen Amalia, the wife of King Otto, during her stay in Greece (1837 – 1862). Dating from 1839, the gardens are located a stone’s throw from the Hellenic Parliament, stretching over an expanse of 285,000 square meters, and featuring 7000 trees, 40,000 bushes, and many more plants. Most are not indigenous, as Amalia envisioned it as an “exotic” space.

At present, your visit can be made even more interesting if you download a free app that will enable you to uncover contemporary digital artworks nestled behind oleanders or rising up in front of the Canary palm trees. The exhibition “Seeing the Invisible” includes 14 digital installations that focus on the relationship between man and the environment, with works by artists such as Αi Weiwei, El Anatsui, Siaglit Landau, Ori Gersht, and Isaac Julien. The artworks, created using augmented reality, are being presented in ten botanical gardens worldwide, from Australia and Singapore to North America, Canada, and North Africa. The app will show you where the images can be found; you scan them as you approach and the artwork appears before your eyes. Xenia Georgiadou

Info

Until 30/09/2023, National Gardens, Vasilissis Amalias, closes every day at 7:30pm.  

Artistic Magic

The Times newspaper has named him a “masterful theatrical magician and imagist,” the Guardian “a master of contradictions,” and the Financial Times “an artist who paints with bodies.” With every work, the noted choreographer-director and visual artist Dimitris Papaioannou creates images of astonishing power and beauty, the product, in part, of an exceptional education; he studied with the great artist of Greek modernism, Yannis Tsarouhis before enrolling at the Athens School of Fine Arts.

Papaioannou views the scene as a canvas, which is why everything – set, lighting, dancers and music – functions as an equally important part of an artistic composition. His new performance, “INK,” was born during the pandemic. On stage, he is joined by the dancer Suka Horn. They engage in a choreographed duel and, through the opposition of their bodies, contend with the complexity of human desire. The first version of INK was presented in 2020 at the Torino Danza Festival and the Reggio Emilia Aperto Festival; its international tour is being launched from Athens. Xenia Georgiadou

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12-27/01/2023, Athens Concert Hall, Vasilissis Sofias & Kokkali.

A boulevard of urban dreams

Kypseli used to be one of the most densely populated urban areas in the world, attracting residents in search of the middle-class urban dream. Its demographics changed and its fortunes waned, but its main thoroughfare of Fokionos Negri, four-fifths of which is pedestrianized, never stopped being the area’s central artery and an oasis among the concrete. Today, this 700-meter-long stretch is undergoing a revival, as is the whole neighborhood, with residents moving back to ’60s apartment buildings and a number of new establishments opening. Locals get their morning coffee at Dope Roastery, where exquisite brews and delicious bake goods are on offer. Opposite, Meteoritis Bookstore is an international hit, with books and magazines in English, Greek and French.

The Kypseli Municipal Market is busy every day of the week; you can pick up African fashion and street food to go here, and it’s also home to a weekly farmers’ markets and numerous cultural events. When darkness falls, Eprepe Bar offers a sophisticated selection of wines, great cocktails and meze plates; it’s quickly becoming the trendiest nightspot in an area with a plethora of entertainment options and plenty of after-dark energy. Alex King

The history of a collection

The National Gallery – Alexandros Soutsos Museum reopened in May 2021 after a decade of major reconstruction that saw it double in size. When it first opened back in 1900, its permanent collection featured just 258 artworks, most of them by foreign artists, as Greek art collectors of the time invested money in names that appeared in major galleries around the world. In 1919, however, the National Gallery acquired “The Slope” by Konstantinos Parthenis, an artist considered radical by Greek art standards of the time.This marked a significant shift in focus for the museum, with more attention being given to contemporary Greek creations. Nevertheless, donations and acquisitions of international artworks never stopped, and today, the international collection of the National Gallery comprises 1250 artworks from western Europe that date from the 14th century to the present day.

Featured artists include Van Dyck, Eugene Delacroix, Goya, Bonnard, Monet, Kandinsky, Braque, Picasso, Matisse, Miro, Picabia, Magritte and Fontana. A new wing dedicated to Western European paintings welcomed its first visitors only a few weeks ago. Standout works include “Holy Trinity” (c. 1384) by Marco Veneziano, the oldest artwork in the collection, the striking “Episode from the Greek War of Independence” (1856) by Eugene Delacroix, the “Windmill” (1905) by Mondrian and “Woman’s Head” by Picasso, which the artist donated to the Greek people in recognition of their brave resistance during the German Occupation. Xenia Georgiadou

info

National Gallery, 50 Vasileos Konstantinou, Mon-Sun 10:00-18:00.

Meet me at the Conservatoire!

Peristylion Café is a new venture located in the imposing entrance of the Athens Conservatoire, and a great reason to visit this educational institution, an Athenian equivalent of New York’s Juilliard School. Thousands of Greek performers from the world of music, theater and dance have studied their craft here, in a building considered to be one of the best examples of Greek post-war modernism – even though it was only fully completed very recently. The official inauguration of all the Conservatoire’s new spaces will take place before the end of the year. Dimitris Rigopoulos

Info

Athens Conservatoire, 17-19 Rigillis and Vasileos Georgiou II.

New reality

Greek shipping tycoon Basil Goulandris and his wife Elise bought their first painting, El Greco’s “Veil of Saint Veronica,” in 1956 and continued to build one of the most important private collections to be assembled in the course of the second half of the 20th century, with care, patience, and impeccable taste. Thirty years in the making, the purpose-built museum of The Collection of the Basil & Elise Goulandris Foundation they envisioned finally opened its doors in 2018, revealing to the art-loving public rare masterpieces by leading figures of 19th and 20th-century art, including Cézanne, Van Gogh, Gauguin, Braque, Picasso, Miro, Giacometti and Balthus. Its next temporary exhibition, “Νοuveau Realisme,” is dedicated to the short-lived yet hugely influential artistic movement founded in 1960 by the art critic Pierre Restany and the painter Yves Klein, advocating a return to “reality” outside the confinements of figurative art and in opposition to the lyricism of abstract painting. Xenia Georgiadou

Info

From 11/01 to 09/04, Basil & Elise Goulandris Foundation, 13 Eratosthenous, open Mon, Wed, Thu, Sat 10.00-18.00, Fri 10.00-20.00

Wild about books

Athens is a city where digital hasn’t killed off print, and where new bookstores are greeted with joy by residents and visitors alike. The smartly designed Kombrai (32 Didotou) opened in September of 2022  in the heart of Athens’ traditional publishing district in Exarchia, stocking a growing selection of Greek and English books. Order a coffee, pick-up a book and read or write for as long as you like in the comfy mezzanine workspace upstairs.

Hyper Hypo’s (10 Voreou) 2021 arrival in Monastiraki is one of a kind, stocking international art, design and fashion books, independent magazines and zines and serving a creative community not previously represented in Athens. You won’t find a more attractive or better-run bookstore anywhere else in the city center.

 

Founded by Greek-French Odile Bréhier and Greek Yiannis Skoufis 11 years ago, To Lexikopoleio (13 Stasinou) has become a much-loved local institution. Along with its wide inventory of books, comics and journals in English, French and Greek, the bookstore holds lectures and other cultural events. Ask in-store about the Vatrahonissi Project, inspired by the archaic name for the neighborhood, literally “Frog Island,” and masterminded by To Lexikopoleio to connect and support the area’s vibrant network of independent shops, businesses and artists. Alex King

The French connection

The cozy Greek-French bistro Bon Bon Fait Maison L’ Atelier is housed in a 19th-century neoclassical residence once owned by the family of the Greek revolutionary hero Markos Botsaris. Chef Kriton Poulis, who spent 10 years as the right hand of famed French pâtissier Pierre Herme, has created an all-day menu with tasty options for breakfast and brunch (the egg dishes, tarts, and sandwiches are all excellent, as are the Breton crêpes with Cretan smoked pork, Greek yogurt and Naxos graviera cheese), as well as for lunch and dinner. Standout dishes include glazed parsnip served with watercress sauce and a crispy mollet egg. Desserts include a fraisier cake with olive oil, and a pistachio mille-feuille. The wine list features Greek and French selections and wine-based cocktails. Georgia Papastamou

Info

8 Kalamiotou, Τel. (+30) 210.324.3053, open Mon-Sat 10:00-00:00, Sun 11:00-23:30  

Athenian osteria

Greeks and Italians have a lot in common, including a joie de vivre and a love for food, and these similarities inspired the owner of Il Capitano to open this osteria, which sits in the popular neighborhood of Koukaki near the Acropolis. The menu, which changes often, features specialties of the Veneto region and meze dishes associated with Greek panigiria (traditional festivals). Here, you can enjoy a tomato spread from Mykonos on toasted bread, some lemony lahanodolmades (cabbage rolls), bigoli pasta with onions and sage, and goat patoudo, a specialty from the island of Naxos with rice, liver, herbs and raisins. The drinks list is also a Greek-Italian affair, featuring tsipouro, ouzo, amaro, grappa, Franciacorta (Italian “champagne”), and wines from both countries. Georgia Papastamou

Info

107 Veikou, Tel. (+30) 210.924.5645  

Bakery boom

If you love good bread and freshly baked delicacies, you’re in luck – this is a perfect time to be in Athens. There are more and more new bakers in the city, and some long lines are forming outside their stores, drawn by the thick sourdough bread with a crispy crust and by the croissants, brioches and biscuits, too. It’s been three years since the bakery scene exploded here, with pioneers such as Kora and its addictive pain au chocolat and sandwiches in fluffy focaccia bread, or Tromero Paidi (“enfant terrible”), with its incredible sourdough baguettes.

These establishments demonstrated how excellent bread can be made using only water, flour, salt, heaps of patience and absolutely no additives or preservatives. Several other quality bakeries followed their example. Black Salami in Exarchia is known for its slow-fermented bread and its sandwiches. Newly opened Bread B.C. has introduced “4 ancient seeds,” a bread with four grains – buckwheat, flaxseed, wild barley and teff, as well as a Greek version of focaccia traditionally made in Lakonia called “propira.” Georgia Papastamou

Info

Kora, 44 Anagnostopoulou Tromero Paidi, 30 Papadiamantopoulou Black Salami, 71 Zoodohou Pigis & Methonis Bread B.C., 59 Aghias Paraskevis, Halandri

What’s on tap?

Until three years ago, there were no taprooms in Athens. Now they’re springing up like mushrooms in various neighborhoods. In these taprooms, owner-brewers introduce their patrons to the craft culture, serving fresh beer from Greek and foreign microbreweries and organizing food nights and beer-tasting events.

Strange Brew Taproom & Bottleshop (86 Falirou) holds the title of the city’s first taproom. While it didn’t open until in 2019, its owners were already brewers whose beers had caused a sensation in local shops. Their core beer is Jasmine IPA, and there’s an Uncle Jam’s series as well.

 

Slow Down (39 Kydantidon) opened recently in Petralona. It serves a beer of the same name, produced in a nanobrewery in Evdilos, Ikaria, using water from the island.

Blame the Sun (60 Veikou) boasts lots of branded craft beers, including many new to the domestic scene, and great beer-based cocktails.

Tap 27 (27 Eratosthenous), by Mustaki Nomad Brewing, is a tiny taproom that offers craft beers from Greek microbrewers as well as some rare ones, such as Omnipollo, from the international market that are worth trying. Marina Petridou



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